Healthy Boundaries for Grandparents

Grandparents cycle with grand children

Grandparents can be the most rewarding family in every person’s life. After all, you get to enjoy your grandkids without the responsibilities and headaches that come with parenting. But sometimes, conflicts occur between parents and grandparents.

Healthy Boundaries for Grandparents

Healthy boundaries play a vital role and are a very important part of parent/ grandparent relationships. When used effectively, they establish expectations regarding the relationship and encourage people to treat each other mindfully and respectfully

Ultimately, it may come down to finding a balance between sharing your wisdom. Thus, allowing room for the parents to learn as they go.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Grandparents?

The very first step to setting healthy boundaries is to determine the needs, goals, and values of your individual family.

The parents must have to talk about what they want. Also, how they want things to go. Hence, they could see how they want it to work, then they can share that vision with their grandparents.

Below Are the Simple Strategies to Keep in Mind: 

1.       Communicate Clearly and Honestly.

Openly communicate and lay the groundwork for what you would like from your grandparents.

Parents would say, it is our vision, this is how we’re going to do it. This is how we like you to be involved.  It feels like more of an invitation to the grandparents.

2.      Use Active Listening.

It is not just hearing the words being said. It is also striving to understand and engage with the other person’s point of view.

Parents could share their thoughts, desires, and plans for boundary setting. But they should also enlist ideas and thoughts from grandparents to develop a mutually agreed action plan.

3.      Honor Grandparents’ Positive Intentions.

Letting the parent mindset from one of feeling threatened or wanting to have ultimate control will help open interactions to invite greater collaboration.

Giving the grandparents credit and praise for trying to be helpful. To work with them to support collaboration rather than power struggles.

4.     Keep Kids Safe and Healthy 

The best way and practices for child safety change all the time as to learn new information. For instance, when parents and grandparents are starting their families.

It is important that your rules for things like safe sleep, car seat safety, and hygiene are communicated and respected. You must discuss the rules and why they exist. It is helpful to the parent and how they are developmentally appropriate and enriching to the child.

5.     How To Handle Food Choices and Treats. 

In case, maybe you’re a vegetarian. Your in-laws may not think their kids should eat a vegetarian diet as well. Or else, the other grandparent has a habit of treating kids to many cookies whenever they visit. Whatever the case, disagreements over meals and snacks are not uncommon.

If you find yourself in a tough spot, thank the grandparents for their care and investment in your child. However, also correct them if they go against your rules.

You may say, thank you for taking care of my kid. I know you’re a good grandparent and coming from a good place, but I have different views about my child’s diet.

Grandmother Reading With Granddaughter
Grandmother Reading With Granddaughter

Why Do Healthy Boundaries Matter the Most? 

Complaints about overstepping boundaries are common.

A grandparent may inadvertently undermine a parent’s decision by allowing a child dessert after the parent has said no.  Or they might unknowingly monopolize special firsts like taking a child for their first haircut without the parents’ knowledge.

It takes some time for anyone to adjust to a new role and Grandparents are no exception. During the transitional period, the breaching of boundaries will occur, and behavioral adjustments must be made. 

Don’t let it become an issue that causes conflict between parents and grandparents.

This might happen for instance, when grandparents provide routine childcare and live with their grandchildren in a multi-generational home, the likelihood of boundary issues increases.

Some extreme cases due to disputes may lead to grandparents being cut off from grandchildren.

Why are they important? The parent-grandparent relationships not only establish roles and expectations but also provide a structure that keeps the children from being confused and caught in the middle.

It is hard for kids when a parent says one thing and a grandparent says something entirely different; this could create tension in the relationship.

Often, the parent may feel like their authority is being undermined. While the children may feel like they are being ganged up on. Overstepping boundaries can also cause parents to feel inadequate and judged.

Otherwise, if boundaries are established and honored, parents feel secure in their role to parent their children. While grandparents can enjoy their role without the responsibility that comes with parenting.

They can still indulge their Grandchildren without undermining the authority of the parents to offer their grandchildren without trying to take on a parenting role as well.

How Does It Work Together?

Very helpful grandparents are wonderful.  Ultimately, the parents are delighted to have them in their lives.

Most likely, it is assisting when the baby first arrives or babysitting, so the parents somehow could have a night out. It is a great deal to have a loving, trustworthy support system.

Great help with carpooling and school functions is welcome as well.

Sometimes grandparents cross a line that upsets the parents. Perhaps the grandparents let the grandkids watch too much television or allow them to play on the iPad all day.

Or it could be more drastic like allowing their grandchild to ride in the cab of a pickup without a booster seat – which likely violates car seat laws.

Hence, boundaries are important and when adhered to, they reduce unnecessary emotional distress.

Healthy Boundaries for Grandparents

Here Is the List of Healthy Boundaries for Grandparents That They Should Know:

1.     Ask Permission.

It’s a nice gesture of showing your care and love to bake your grandchild’s first birthday cake.  Or instead, you can purchase a Christening gown.

But, before you do that, you must always first ask permission.  Taking your grandchild to the park should be approved by the parents first. You should not inadvertently steal these firsts from the parents.

Of course, they may have set opinions and preferences about these activities.  As much as possible to avoid stepping on their toes.  Some parents might welcome those activities, but some see them as usurping their role.

Be aware of gift-giving pitfalls.  When you are in doubt about an appropriate particular gift, ask before you buy. Be wary of outshining the parents on gift-giving occasions.

2.     Honor the Parents’ Decisions.

Although you do not agree with the parents’ rules and guidelines, make an effort to honor them. Always remember, you are the grandparent and not the parent. You should not take their authority and do what you want.

If you want to spend more time with your grandchildren, then you need to be sure you are doing things the way the parents want them to be done.

Be careful about indulgences in sweets, television time, and staying up past bedtime. These are a part of the parents’ list of forbidden things.

Moreover, decisions about sleeping, potty training, and starting pre-school are not decisions a grandparent should be making. The Grandparents should also tread lightly when making suggestions about parenting issues.

However, when sharing your thoughts, be sure you state them diplomatically. You need to approve their decisions.

3.     Giving Them Space.

A grandparent either wants to see their grandchildren once in a while or as much as possible. It is important to note, that it also allows them space to be a family. It creates a potential burden on the parents’ side to show up every weekend at their house.

Allowing the parents to take care of their kids and spend quality time with them, especially during weekends.  Although the extended family is also important. It needs space to build intimacy and togetherness as a core family unit as well.

However, if considering moving to get closer to your grandkids, discuss the idea first. Many families welcome such proximity. Some may feel like their freedom and autonomy have been compromised.

4.     Giving Without Strings.

When grandparents financially contribute to their grandchildren’s welfare, the parents usually greatly appreciate the help.

However, always keep in mind that giving financial support to the family does mean buying extra input into your grandchildren’s lives. It does not give you the right to make parenting decisions.

However, it is quite acceptable to designate the money for specific purposes like paying for preschool or other activities. Deciding which preschool or daycare your grandkid attends will remain to the parent the right of the parents.

5.     Spoiling The Kids. 

Almost all grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren. It started from surprise gifts, favorite candies, sugary sodas, and even spontaneous trips to the zoo. Spoiling your beloved grandchildren is all a part of showing them how much you love and care.

Some typically use gifts to win over the hearts of their beloved grandchildren. Go get the kids to listen to them and their requests.

It could be perfectly fine to spoil them from time to time, but there should always be limits on how much you spend and how much junk food you allow them to consume.

Over spoiling your grandkids could lead to a falling out between you and the parents. Your grandchild’s parents may view such behavior as undermining their roles and responsibilities.

They may even be tagged as ‘bad parents’ in front of their kids when they have to say, “No,” to excessive threats or too much television.

To avoid such situations, be sure and ensure that you ask the parents beforehand if it’s okay to supply the kids with threats. Be able to watch television before having dinner.

6.     Being an Encourager.

It is the best character that grandparents must possess to inspire with kindness and patience.

Tread carefully when offering suggestions about parenting or even cooking issues, especially if the opinions could be misconstrued as criticisms.

Just remember the past when you were a new parent as well and facing challenges at times.

But, yet complement your grandchildren’s parents as often as you can. Try to avoid and refrain from making negative or judging comments.

7.     Keep an Open Communication. 

Ideally, open communication has been established with your grandchildren’s parents from the beginning. As part of it, you should know where they stand on big issues like electronics, food, car seats, bedtimes, and more.

When you don’t know where the parents stand on specific issues, make sure to ask.  You only want to make sure you do everything you can to honor their wishes and decisions. The ideal is that the parents love when you spend time with the grandkids.

Though common ground has been established, it’s not uncommon to accidentally blur the line between parenting and grandparenting. Thus, it happens, and you upset the parents, make sure to apologize and admit you were wrong.

But, trying to minimize, justify, or prove your point, is not going to work in your favor. Otherwise, you might end up losing precious time with your dearest grandchildren.

8.      Avoid Undermine the Parent’s Discipline and Rules.

The grandparents’ job is to adhere to the parent’s rules and discipline. Instances like the parents insist on time-outs when a tantrum is thrown or no sweets before dinner.

Don’t give them candies or potato chips before dinner or insist that they should be allowed to stay up past their bedtime. These are all crossing serious boundaries.

Even though a rule seems absurd to you, the decisions are ultimately theirs as parents. Avoid interfering situations that are clearly meant to be handled between the parent and child though you believe it’s unfair.

The only time to intervene in any situation is in the case of child abuse. Any form of interference can come off as disrespectful to the relationship.

9.     Avoid Criticizing in Front of Their Kids.

This goes in line with undermining specific rules set in place for the kids. Criticizing the parents and their abilities in front of the children will lead to a lot of resentment in the family.

Treating your own son or daughter as adult children, despite their ability to take care of themselves, could come off as rude and incredibly disrespectful.

During the times when interacting within the family dynamic, be sure that you show complete confidence in your children’s ability to raise their own kids. This will also help your grandkids to trust in their parents.

10.     Watch Your Language.

Language is a powerful tool. Make sure to use it wisely. It’s easy to make others comfortable with the use of proper words. Do the best to minimize the use of the word “my” or “mine” when referring to your grandchild.

Sometimes, parents see this kind of language as signs of obsessed grandparents. This could be marked as quite possessive language.

Instead, name and call your grandkid its name or “the baby.” This is more neutral and positive.

11.     Do Not Try to Raise Them Like Your Own Kids.

When it comes to parenting, you know that you’ve got it all figured out. You have done your best to manage and raise pretty great kids of your own.

Though to acknowledge all of the good deeds you’ve done as a parent, it’s also important to remember that every family is unique. Your kids may want to raise their children in an entirely different way than yours.

Pushing them up unto your own ways of parenting may get on everyone’s nerves. Avoid clashing opinions and allow them to raise their own kids in their own way.

12.      Never Reward a Bad Behavior.

Does your grandkid throw a fit because they weren’t allowed to stay at the park longer than allowed? Or get upset about not being able to eat a sweet treat right before lunchtime?

So, it might seem easier to just let them hang out at the park for as long as they’d like and give them candies. This reinforces bad behavior.

This may create a larger problem back home and no longer listening to the rules of the house. Be sure you are not making the parents’ lives harder by rewarding bad behavior.

13.     Avoid Talking Badly About Other Family Members.

Ideally, your daughter-in-law or son-in-law has their own extended family. Your grandchildren have two sets of grandparents.

Thus, you may not like how this other couple lives or how they choose to spend time with the grandchildren, so just keep it to yourself.

Gossiping about other family members could create a lot of problems and heartaches. You might even strain the relationship between you and your grandkids.

14.     Avoid Demands Outfit to Wear. 

Do you definitely adore that blue striped dress that you bought? Do you think your baby grandkid would look darling in that navy blue suit you got her?

It is great to buy your grandkids cute outfits and give them to the parents. Don’t dress your grandkids in the outfits without checking first with the parents.  

You may think it is the perfect outfit for the baby photoshoot but, it doesn’t follow that everyone feels the same. Ultimately, it is not your choice what the baby wears. As much as possible, keeping that boundary could save you from a family fight.

15.     Avoid Criticizing About Food.

There is a real difference between organic snacks and regular ones.  However, it does not mean you can feed them whatever you want. The parents have specific food guidelines, and it is your job to follow those rules.

Whatever you think of a dish that is served to your grandkids that is not able to meet your requirements, it is not the place to make that comment.

Always remember that the parents have the authority over the food which is going to be served. It’s always at the parent’s discretion.

If you have baked the chicken differently and seasoned it with more appropriate spices, that is your business to keep to yourself.

16.     Don’t Compare Grandkids to Others. 

Is your son Peter’s kid a better student at school rather than your daughter Mary’s son? Is Mary’s son a better athlete than Peter? Take a look and might notice the differences, it is important to not compete the grandchildren against each other.

Comparing them to each other and pitting their inherent gifts and skills against each other could cause familial competition.

These kids may already be quite aware of their distinct personalities and skills.

Bringing it up could make them question their self-worth. Expect your kids to pass down the same religious beliefs or traditions.

17.     Expecting Your Kids to Pass Down the Same Religious Beliefs And Traditions.

There is always a “right time and way” to raise kids. It is also in the involvement of certain religious beliefs and practices. Not all and everyone feels that way.

Respecting and honoring the wishes of the parents to raise their kids with their own beliefs is a big part of being a respectful grandparent.

To make sure not to go behind their backs and disrespect may lead you to never being able to spend time alone with your grandchildren again.

18.     Buying Large Amounts of Gifts Without Asking the Parents First.

Have you been experiencing your grandkids dropping hints about wanting a new iPad or that large teddy bear in the window of the toy store?

Perhaps it’s not really a big deal for you to spend money on a gift. However, don’t buy anything like that without first consulting with mom and dad. The parents may have been saving up to get the gift themselves.

It might have a reason why it does not want them to have the gift now. It’s best to consult with them before spending on big gifts for your grandkids.

19.     Influencing Education Choices.

Grandparents are looking for the best for their grandchildren which includes educational preferences. It might be because you have a long list of educational preferences.

You believe that public school gives them the best opportunity to meet others. Perhaps you also believe that private religious school offers the best education.

Either way around, no matter what your preferences are, the decisions are still from the parents. The parents should openly share with their grandparents how the rules are helpful to them and how they are developmentally appropriate and enriching to the child.

Final Thoughts on Healthy Boundaries for Grandparents 

You may not be able to see the trouble spots coming ahead of time; however, you can agree to resolve differences with mutual respect and work together as a team.

For those of you who have need of the contents of this article, we hope you found it very helpful, and we wish you well for the future. 

Read More:
Grandparents’ Rights in Kentucky                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, and she is the Editor of Lifestyle Divorce. Patricia’s worked as the Practice Manager at an International Divorce and Family law firm for over 15 years. She is a qualified Counsellor, and she has had many counselling sessions with people considering or going through a divorce.

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